India is a country rich in history and cultural heritage. There are several states/cities, must visit places in India that will leave you high with a cultural experience. And on your quest for a culturally rich experience in India, you cannot miss a visit to the wonderful state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan, which translates to the ‘Land of Kings’ is true to its name with its magnificent forts, palaces, Havelis with exceptional architecture, well-preserved heritage and mouthwatering local cuisine. Here are the top tourist places in Rajasthan which should definitely be on your list.
Udaipur City Palace
One of the top places to visit in Udaipur, the ‘City of Lakes’ is the grandeur Udaipur City Palace. The city palace complex is set along the shores of the Lake Pichola and offers a wonderful panorama of the city. The city palace was built by Maharana Udai Singh in the 16th-century when he shifted his capital from Chittorgarh to Udaipur due to the Mughal attacks.
The palace features Rajasthani and Mughal style of architecture and has a sumptuous interior decorated with exquisite paintings, murals, carvings and beautiful mirror work. Part of the City Palace has been converted into two heritage hotels Fateh Prakash Palace and the Shiv Niwas Palace and the remaining part converted into a museum is open to the public. The museum walks you through the history and culture of the Mewar dynasty.
On your visit to the palace do not miss the spectacular sound and light show that takes place in the Manek Chowk from 7.30 to 8.30. And a boat tour on the Lake Pichola for great views of the palace and the Jagmandir palace is highly recommended.
Bagore Ki Haveli in Udaipur
One of the best ways to experience the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan in the city of Udaipur is to visit the 18th-century Bagore Ki Haveli. Bagore Ki Haveli is a museum located on the shores of the Gangaur Ghat of Pichola Lake about 5 minutes walk from the Udaipur City Palace. The museum of Bagore ki Haveli displays some well-preserved artifacts which are a great way to learn about the history and culture of Mewars.
After dusk, the Haveli is illuminated with colorful lights as the stage is set for the amazing cultural events. The program that takes place for an hour includes different folk dances accompanied by live musicians. The ladies dressed in colorful traditional attire are seen balancing the pots on their head while gracefully perform the dance. The event also includes a puppet show where the puppeteer makes the puppets perform at some popular folk songs.
The Chittor Fort or Chittorgarh is one of the largest forts in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 110 km from the city of Udaipur. The 7th-century sprawling fort was the capital of Mewar Kingdom. The fort has a plethora of historical palaces, monuments temples, gates and water bodies. Each of the palaces, temples and the monuments are a fine example of the Rajput style of architecture.
The two majestic towers of the fort are the Kirti Stambha, is a 12th century seven stories tower dedicated to Adinathji, the 1st Jain Teerthankar and the Vijay Stambha is a 15th century 9-story tower commemorate the victory of Maharana Kumbh over rulers of Malwa and Gujarat. Both the towers are beautifully adorned with sculptures. The Padmani Palace is a major point of interest in the fort. It is here that Alauddin Khilji was allowed to see a reflection of Padmini in a mirror. And besotted by her beauty Alauddin Khilji fought a battle with Rana Ratan Singh, the husband of Rani Padmini. Rana Kumbha Palace is one of the magnificent palaces in the fort mostly in ruins yet an imposing edifice. The palace has been a testimony to lots of historical events of Chittod including the Johar of Rani Padmini along with the other women. A visit to the Fateh Singh Palace museum is a must to learn more about the history of the palace and the fort of Chittod. The fort premises also has several grandeur temples including Sanwariaji Temple, Kalikamata Temple, Sathis Deori Temple and the Meera Temple.
Kumbhalgarh Fort is one of the largest forts built in 15th century by Rana Kumbha and is located around 82 km from Udaipur City. The Kumbhalgarh Fort is also a World Heritage Site and is a massive complex enclosed in one of the longest walls in the world which is over 36 km long. Kumbhalgarh Fort is about 110 km from Udaipur and 90 km from the city of Jodhpur.
The premises of Kumbhalgarh Fort is said to have around 300 Jain temples and over 50 Hindu temples, 7 massive gateways and numerous temples. The major point of interest in the Kumbhalgarh Fort is the Kumbhalgarh Palace which sits at the highest point in the fort and is adorned with colorful murals. The palace is historically significant for being the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the great king of Mewar. The ramparts of the fort offer wonderful panoramic views of the countryside, the city, and the Aravali range. Another important attraction here is the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary which is rich in flora and fauna. You can go for Jeep Safari ride and explore the exotic wildlife, bird species and a wide variety of plants and trees.
The Haunted Temples of Kiradu
There is a plenitude of tourist places in Rajasthan rich in cultural heritage and history. Amongst these majestic historical places, you will also find some places which have a sad story associated with them which put these places under the list of haunted places in Rajasthan.
One such place is the haunted Kiradu Temples complex located in the Barmer district of Rajasthan some 35 km from Barmer City center. There are around 5 temples in the premises which are more or less in ruins and date back to 11th and 12th century. You can find the pillars, sculptures, and parts of the walls of the temples lying around the temples in heaps. But of what still remained intact did not fail to leave us awestruck. The temples are built in the exemplary Maru-Gurjar style of Solanki architecture. The walls and the temple towers are decorated with exquisite sculptures of Hindu deities and intricate carvings. walls.
We also recommend you visit the non-touristy sand dunes of Barmer for one of the most beautiful sunsets over the golden sands of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.
One of the top things to do in the golden city of Jaisalmer is to visit the magnificent fort of Jaisalmer. The was built by King Rao Jaisal and dates back to the 12th-century. The fort within its ramparts encloses an entire village and is home to 4000 people and houses. Not only that you can also find several restaurants, handicraft shops, palaces, and museums. The entrance into the fort is through 4 massive gates which are decorated with intricate carvings and are part of the great defense system of the fort.
The first point of interest in the Jaisalmer Fort is the Dusshera Chowk, a prominent square which has the splendid Maharwal Palace. The palace is decorated with remarkable carvings and latticework in sandstone on windows and archways. The Maharwal Palace houses a museum on history and heritage of the city of Jaisalmer. The museum collection comprises of armory collections, silverworks, 15th-century sculptures and lavishly decorated rooms. The terrace of the museum offers great views of the city of Jaisalmer. For even more stunning views of the golden city of Jaisalmer visit the cannon point.
Wander around the narrow lanes winding through the houses of the fort on a shopping spree and at the same time explore the remarkable architectural and intricate latticework of mansions. Also must visit in the fort are the stunning Jain temples dating back to 12th and 15th centuries. The temples built in the exemplary Dilwara style architecture have some incredible work of carvings on the walls and pillars of the temple.
Patwon Ki Haveli in Jaisalmer
A visit to the Patwon Ki Haveli is one of the top things to do in the golden city of Jaisalmer. Haveli is a traditional mansion in India built by merchants and you will find plenty of them in Rajasthan. The group of Patwon Ki Haveli in Jaisalmer are an exemplary Rajasthani architecture. The sandstone walls have intricate carvings and elaborate latticework on the balconies and window archways. The first one of these Havelis known as the Kothari’s Patwa Haveli was constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa and has most beautiful and grandiose interior. Each of these 5 Havelis was built for sons of Guman Chand Patwa and it took them about 50 years to complete.
The first haveli houses a small museum where you can have a look at the ornate interior decorated with exquisite mirror work on the walls and the ceilings and remarkable murals. The museum also holds household items and other artifacts to depict the lifestyle of the merchants. There is also a small handicraft shop in the haveli where you can shop for some Rajasthani clothing and handcrafted bedsheets.
Bada Bagh in Jaisalmer
The royal cenotaphs of Bada Bagh are located about 6 km from the city of Jaisalmer. The beautiful cenotaphs with exemplary architecture were built for the royal family of Bhatti Dynasty. Bada Bagh comprises of a large garden which was built by Jai Singh II the King of Jaisalmer in an effort reserve some place for green land amidst the arid land of Jaisalmer. After his death, his son built a cenotaph to honor the contribution of Jai Singh II.
The garden has a large number of cenotaphs featuring different designs elements like domes, towers, and pyramid roofs. Most of them are sadly in ruins and are homes to the pigeons but the ones in good condition portray the rich architectural style with intricate carvings on pillars, archways, roofs and the ceiling. The cenotaphs of Bada Bagh are a popular spot for viewing sunset in Jaisalmer.
Sam Sand Dunes of Jaisalmer
A visit to Jaisalmer is incomplete without experiencing the golden sands of the Thar Desert. Sam Sand Dunes of Thar Desert are located some 40 km from the city of Jaisalmer and are a popular tourist destination. Be ready to expect a lot of crowd here. You can book a room in one of the hotels which offer transport to and from the sand dunes. Or the best book one of the glamping tents in the midst of the arid land of Thar.
The accommodations arrange for the wide array of desert activities like Jeep safari, camel ride, and dune bashing. The desert camps also arrange for cultural and folk programs like dance, puppet shows, magic shows and numerous other fun activities followed by a delectable traditional Rajasthani dinner. The sunset over the golden dunes of the Thar Desert one of the major attractions in the city of Jaisalmer.
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
Jodhpur is also known as the blue city was founded by Rao Jodha in the 15th century. It is known as the ‘Blue City’ for the houses painted in blue in the old part of the city. And overlooking this sprawling blue city is the magnificent fort of Mehrangarh which is one of the most beautiful forts in India. Mehrangarh Fort built of red stone is a complex of several palaces which have some of the exquisite architectural elements like intricate carvings and latticework. There is a museum in the fort which exhibits an amazing collection of palanquins, armors, paintings and other royal artifacts from the bygone era. One of the best ways to experience the grandeur of the fort is zip-lining. The glide on the ziplines offers great views of the Mehrangarh Fort, its ramparts and the panorama of the old city of Jodhpur.
You can combine your visit to the Mehrangarh Fort with a visit to Jaswant Thada, the memorial of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. The 19th-century marble building surrounded by a lake is set in a calm picturesque setting. The premises has numerous cenotaphs of the royal family. Jaswant Thada is popularly known as ‘Taj Mahal of Marwar’ and is a must visit attraction in Jodhpur.
You would not agree more if I said the best way to experience the cultural heritage of a place visit the quintessential villages and rural areas. And the villages in Rajasthan still rooted to the ground. There are many tours that offer a Bishnoi Village Safari where you get to visit some houses, communities, and the rustic countryside to experience the cultural aspects of rural Rajasthan. You might also get a chance to spot some amazing wildlife in the natural habitat. You can also get these tours arranged through your hotels and accommodations.
We visited the pottery community and had a chance to watch the potter at work, they also walked us through the entire process. We also visited a couple of houses of Bishnoi community to learn about their way of life and about their heritage. The Bishnoi’s follow the 29 rules laid down by their Guru Saint Jambheshwar. They are protectors of flora and fauna, they don’t allow felling of trees and practice vegetarianism.
City Palace in Jaipur
The City Palace of Jaipur is a palace complex built in the 18th-century. The palace complex comprising of the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces alongside other buildings. The magnificent palace features several richly decorated gates, majestic courtyards, gardens, and palaces.
The 19th century Mubarak Mahal is built with a wonderful blend of Islamic, Rajput and European architectural styles. The museum in Mubarak Mahal holds an exhibition of royal costumes displaying a variety of textiles. Chandra Mahal is the most impressive part of the palace complex. It is a seven-storeyed building housing museum on the ground floor which is the only part open to public and most of the other parts still serve as the royal residence. The museum displays a collection of interesting items that were used by the royal family. The peacock gate of the Chandra Mahal with motifs of peacocks is strikingly beautiful.
Hawa Mahal in Jaipur
Hawa Mahal is a five-story magnificent edifice in Jaipur dating back to the 18th-century. The name Hawa Mahal translates to ‘Palace of Winds’ for its unique architectural design which also served as a cooling effect provided by the breeze passing through the small windows. The facade is made of 953 small windows decorated with latticework, carved sandstone grills, and finials.
The palace can be accessed by the imperial door of the City Palace which opens into a large courtyard surrounded by buildings on three sides and the Hawa Mahal on the fourth side. The Hawa Mahal connects to the Zenana Mahal or women’s chambers of the Jaipur City Palace and was used by the ladies of the royal family to watch the processions and festivals held on the street below without being seen by the public. There is a museum housed in the courtyard with artifacts and information which offers insight on the rich past and the cultural heritage of the Rajputs.
Amer Fort is a fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the town of Amer some 11 km from Jaipur. The Amer Fort sits on a hill overlooking the Maota Lake and the Kesari Kyari or Saffron Garden. The fort comprises of several gates leading to the grand courtyards and palaces. The most beautiful of all gates is the Ganesh Pol which has some remarkable murals painted with vegetable dyes and it is said to retain the color and its charm for all these years now. The latticework above the gate is where the queens would watch the performances held in the courtyards.
Sheesh Mahal is one of the most impressive parts of the fort, the entire palace is decorated with thousands of mirrors on walls, pillars, and ceilings. There is a beautiful Mughal garden in front of the Sheesh Mahal. Other interesting parts of the fort are the Sukh Niwas and Zenana Mahal which are decorated with some beautiful carvings in marble and colored glasses.
A light and sound show takes place here every evening and is a spectacular program on the history of the fort and the city of Jaipur. The fort is one of the major tourist attraction in Rajasthan and something not to miss on your visit to Jaipur.
Abhaneri Village for Chand Baori
Chand Baori is an ancient stepwell situated in the Abhaneri Village of Rajasthan. It is one of the largest and the most spectacular step wells in India and over 1000 years old. The 13-story stepwell consists of about 3,500 narrow steps all placed in a perfect symmetry an architectural masterpiece indeed. The stepwell was built for water harvesting in the arid landscape of Rajasthan. It also has pavilion and rooms which was used by the royal family.
Next, to the Chand Baori stepwell, there is a temple dedicated to Harshat Mata, the goddess of joy. The temple dates back to the 10th century and has a remarkable architecture decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures.
Ranthambore for Wildlife Safari
Ranthambhore National Park is one of the largest national parks in India. The Ranthambhore wildlife sanctuary is popular for the sighting of Bengal tigers. It is situated in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan about 140 km from Jaipur. The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Ranthambhore National Park can be explored on safari rides which lasts for about 3 hours. Check the schedule here. There are plenty of accommodation options like resorts and hotels around the National Park.
The historic Ranthambhore fortress is located inside the Ranthambhore National Park. The magnificent fort dates from 10th century and sits on a hill overlooking the sprawling park. There are temples inside the fort dedicated to the Hindu Gods Ganesh, Shiva, Ramlalaji and two Jain all built between 12th and 13th centuries.
Rampuria Havelis in Bikaner
The Rampuria Havelis of Bikaner are a true epitome of grandeur and exquisiteness of the Rajputana architectural heritage. The Havelis or the traditional mansions were built in the 15th century by Balujee Chalva for the affluent merchant family of Rampurias. The Haveli built with the Dulmera red sandstone features Mughal and Victorian style of architecture. The opulent interior has lofty halls and spacious rooms. Each of these rooms has been decorated with wood carvings, paintings, and portraits.
The Havelis are open to the public to explore and marvel at the Rajput splendor. Bhanwar Niwas built in the early 20th century is the latest addition to the Rampuria Havelis and serves as a heritage hotel.
Junagarh Fort in Bikaner
Bikaner City is one of the top places to visit in Rajasthan for its rich cultural heritage and history. And the 16th-century Junagarh Fort built by Raja Rai Singh is one of the major things to do on a visit to the city of Bikaner. The Junagarh Fort stands on the site of a former 15th-century stone fort built by Rao Bika the founder of Bikaner City. The fort complex features a fine mix of Rajput and Mughal style of architecture and comprises of temples, palaces, and gardens. The fort has seven gates, several Hindu and Jain temples and over 30 palaces. The main palaces of the fort are Karan Mahal, Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Ganga Mahal and Phool Mahal. The interior of these palaces is decorated with beautiful paintings, intricate carvings, lattice windows and balconies, exquisite mirror work and artworks in marble and red sandstone.
A visit to the Fort Museum which displays an amazing collection of jewels, royal costumes, carpets, armories and portraits of rulers is a great way to learn about the royal family and the history of the fort.
If you are looking to experience the incredible culture and heritage of India you cannot miss a visit to the state of Rajasthan. Have you been to these places in Rajasthan? Which is your favorite one? Do share with us in comments.